Hello. I’m Gavin Edwards, contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the New York Times-bestselling author of The Tao of Bill Murray, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series, and Last Night at the Viper Room. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I like caffeine, boardgames, and lists with three items.

Aretha Franklin at the Kennedy Center

Three days before Aretha Franklin died, I got a call from an editor at the New York Times, asking if I could put together an oral history of the Queen of Soul’s amazing 2015 performance of “Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center (honoring Carole King). The catch was that since she didn’t have very long to live, I had only 24 hours to get the story done. It turned out to be the best kind of therapy: although I was grieving the loss of one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, I got to talk about her genius with people who loved her and had spent time with her. As always with pieces like this, nothing happened at first and I despaired of getting anyone at all to talk to me, and then in the final hour before the deadline I ended up juggling Cicely Tyson and James Taylor. You can read the article here.

posted 10 September 2018 in Articles, Outside. no comments yet

The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses on Sale Now!

The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses: A Creative Game of Limitless Possibilities is out now. I’m so proud of this book, I can’t even begin to tell you, but I guess I should try.

Let’s start with a quick explanation: it’s an creativity book, designed to send blue sparks through your brain and to enable long-distance collaborations with incredibly cool people (more on them in a minute). It’s based on the century-old game of Exquisite Corpse, invented by surrealist artist Andre Breton: you might know it by a different name, and the game has variations, but basically, you fold a piece of paper into three sections, and then three people draw a picture on it, without looking at what any of their fellow artists did. Then you unfold it to reveal a glorious or disturbing collaboration!

In the case of The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses, edited by yours truly, the book has 110 contributors who started an Exquisite Corpse for you and friends to finish. (And they’re on perforated pages, so you can easily pull them out!) Because I am ridiculously fortunate, those 110 contributors include some amazingly gifted comics artists, writers, musicians, and actors, who have collectively won the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony Award, and the World Series. To name nine: Stephen Fry. Emily Nussbaum. Peter Kuper. Alexandra Petri. James Hannaham. Jane Espenson. Grace Slick. Moby. Mark Alan Stamaty.

Most of the pages have drawings, while a minority are seeded with sentences. (There’s also a verbal version of the Exquisite Corpse game.) But what’s consistent is that the contributors brought their A games: if you flip through this book, you will be constantly delighted. And once you actually tear it apart and start playing with it, you’ll be having as much fun as is humanly possible with your pants on. (Unless you take your pants off first.)

You can buy The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses from your local bookstore or from many online retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Amazon, and Target–or just go to the Penguin web page for links to those venues and many others.

posted 30 August 2018 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

I Want My Music Video

Sometimes the pleasure of journalism is that you learn everything you can about a topic and then share that information with the world. A few weeks ago, I knew a lot about the music-video business in the 1980s–that’s what happens when you cowrite a book with the original MTV VJs–but I wasn’t too savvy about how the industry worked today, beyond a vague awareness that it had all migrated to YouTube and so it had to make financial sense somehow. After talking to a whole bunch of experts, I know a lot more now about the 21st-century music video, and if you read this article I wrote for Billboard, so will you.

posted 15 August 2018 in Articles. no comments yet

The Day the Music Died

I drove down to Monroe, North Carolina, and spent a bittersweet day at Holloway’s Music Center–a musical-instrument store that, after 106 years of ownership by the same family, is turning off the lights. (They hope that if they liquidate enough stock, they’ll find somebody who wants to buy the business.)

The air conditioning was busted, so an industrial fan blew cool air over the water-stained carpets. A giant sagging yellow sign outside the store advertised “LIQUIDATION SALE.” The store’s proprietor, Marion Holloway – a silver-haired man of 71 with a smile for everyone – said of the sign, “That gets more attention than ‘OLD FART RETIRING.’”

To read the whole Charlotte Observer article, click here.

posted 12 June 2018 in Articles, Outside. no comments yet

1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #27

(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.39.54 AMTime to visit the Duke.

Let’s dispatch this commercial break quickly so we can get back to the videos sooner rather than later.

We kick off with the eighth appearance of the frequently played promo for “Big Bang ’89”: live performances from Robert Plant, Poison, Winger, Cameo, Hall and Oates, Escape Club, Bobby Brown, and Vixen. “Five number-one hits in your face and more!”

Then, the even-more-frequently played commercial (fourteen times and counting!) for The January Man. Man, Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, and Danny Aiello were young once.

A Gillette ad for their Astra razors. Lots of slow-motion footage of well-groomed men: businessmen, astronauts, and for some reason, the Los Angeles Rams. (Yes, I’ve been recapping this countdown long enough that the Rams have relocated to L.A.)

A commercial for Michelob Dry. The first half, the typography has serifs and both upper and lower case; the second half, it’s all bold sans-serif caps.

A quick spot for Willow on VHS. “At last, a family epic with heart to match its spectacle.”

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.38.53 AMSomething shiny and new and seventeen seconds long! The word ONLY in large white capitals on a black screen. A vintage shot of a Sputnik-era satellite. The words WORLD WIDE, and then ALREDEDOR DEL MUNDO, followed by what I assume is the equivalent message in kanji. A quick montage of world maps saturated with color, followed by an array of satellite dishes with ominous clouds moving behind them. The soundtrack is humming modem-type noises with some teletype clacking. Then some photo negative faces, the words MUSIC VIDEO, a close-up on a mouth blowing smoke, a quick flurry of computer graphics and maps, and the word NETWORK before we end with the MTV logo.

posted 5 June 2018 in 1988. 2 comments

The World According to Tom Hanks

WorldAccordingTomHanks.inddComing in October from Grand Central Publishing! With illustrations by the brilliant R. Sikoryak! Scientifically engineered to make your world a better place! Stay tuned for more information!

posted 29 May 2018 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Voice Rising

Hello citizens of Chapel Hill! I will be in your fair city on this Tuesday, May 22nd, as part of the “Voice Rising” series at Flyleaf Books. There’ll be a small bevy of authors reading brand-new work: me, Rowan Chand, Jane Falkner, and Sara Oechsle. And we’ll be answering questions afterwards. (Flyleaf will also have a selection of my books on hand, so I’d be happy to sign a copy of The Tao of Bill Murray for you.) Be there! Bring everyone you know!

Details: Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Blvd. (Historic Airport Rd.), Chapel Hill, NC 27514. This Tuesday, May 22nd, starting at 7 pm. See you there!

posted 20 May 2018 in News. no comments yet

The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses

tbboec revised coverComing in August from Penguin! Edited by yours truly! With over a hundred brilliant contributors! Start lining up at your local bookstore now! More information soon!

posted 11 May 2018 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Neil Tennant Q&A

pet shop thingIn early March, I wrote an article for The New York Times about the American debut of The Most Incredible Thing, a ballet based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, with choreography by Javier de Frutos and a score by the Pet Shop Boys. It was a pleasure to report for many reasons–not least getting on the phone with the brilliant Neil Tennant, one half of the Pet Shop Boys (along with Chris Lowe). Our conversation covered more territory than there was room for in the article, including an update on what the duo have been working on lately–so here are some highlights from the interview.

What surprised you with this whole experience of The Most Incredible Thing?

I was amazed how good it was. (laughs)

The Most Incredible Thing seems like a very Pet Shop Boys idea, but it’s even more a very Pet Shop Boys title.

The title was probably the single thing that most attracted me to it initially!

Tell me about the section of the score with the clock.

We decided to be quite literal and put the clock ringing for each hour. It’s meant to sum up all aspects of human life—

Well, that’s not too ambitious.

It’s not, is it, in twenty minutes? A baby is born, it’s got religion, it’s got the Ten Commandments in there, it’s got a rocket going off to the moon. I was very pleased when we stuck it all together. I think we’re going to do another ballet. Pop musicians who write ballets—it doesn’t happen that often. I mean, Elvis Costello did one [Il Sogno]. He actually wrote an orchestral score.

You’ve always had songs with the trappings of the classical world, like “My October Symphony” or name-dropping Debussy—it’s almost like you were anticipating that you’d move in this direction.

We always had theatrical ambitions, and that’s because of our backgrounds. Chris’s mother was a dancer and his grandfather was in a musical act called The Nitwits. And they were a comedy jazz group, sort of trad jazz, and they used to play in Las Vegas during the sixties–Chris’s grandfather lived in Las Vegas. So Chris is accustomed to this way of looking at things: actually putting on a show. And I was an amateur. As a boy I was in the youth theater in Newcastle, where I grew up. But I also wrote a play and put together some shows and put music in them–even when I was seventeen I was doing that. So for both of us it seemed like a natural way of going about things.

The Most Incredible Thing score integrated electronics and orchestral arrangements. Could it work as an amateur production with a schoolmarm on piano?

Yes. I mean, you’d have to do a piano score first. I think the next ballet we do will either have only electronic or only orchestral. It actually might be only electronics. It’s always quite a problem with electronics and orchestra together, getting the balance right. The guy who mixes our sound in our concerts also does a lot of classical stuff in Germany–he does Pet Shop Boys but he also does the Berlin Philharmonic. So he’s got those skills. You’ve really got to balance the whole thing very carefully. And also, sometimes a melodic line sounds like it’s being played by the orchestra and actually it’s being played on the keyboard and vice versa.

Years ago, you said something—I think to Chris Heath–that maybe the Pet Shop Boys could change every year. One year it would be four girls, and the next year four elderly men.

Well, you know, we never did it. But as you say that, I immediately think what a great idea it was. You know we got that from Menudo? When we first went to New York in 1983, there was this show “Menudo” on the television. And it was, like, five Mexican boys or something? And when one of them got to sixteen they got thrown out and a younger one came in. There was something fascinatingly brutal about this idea.

What else are you working on now?

We have just been in Berlin for two weeks, writing some new songs. And we’ve done it a different way. We didn’t really do any writing last year–well, we did a tiny bit–’cause we were on tour quite a lot of the time. But I wrote lyrics and I decided to email them to Chris and it turned out that Chris had set most of them to music. So we’ve suddenly turned into Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

And the thing is, ultimately Chris writes the music and I sing over it. But when Chris writes the melodies, he doesn’t write the melodies I would write. His are more complicated and so I have to learn his melody but then suddenly it all falls into place. So we’ve written some songs that might be on the next album, who knows? Who knows when the next album will be, but we’ve started that process. We had a fun two weeks. We like writing songs, writing music, we enjoy it.

That’s good. It’d be a long life otherwise.

People in the press often think you’re doing it for the money or because you have to. But really we do it because, right from the beginning, it’s fun and exciting having new songs at the end of the day, even if it’s never released. It’s a great feeling, a new song.

posted 27 April 2018 in Articles. no comments yet

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Ballet

tmitHello! In case you missed them, I wanted to call your attention to two pieces I wrote for The New York Times in recent months. The first one was on the 50th anniversary of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” I spoke with an extraordinarily cool range of people for the article: Steve Cropper, Zelma Redding, Grace Slick, Booker T. Jones, et alia. Plus I got a statement from Michael Bolton (which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d be typing). The second one was on the American debut of The Most Incredible Thing, the ballet with a score by the Pet Shop Boys and choreography by Javier de Frutos. I’m really proud of both–but the space constraints of newspaper articles meant that I couldn’t put in all the great stuff people told me, so I’ll try to post some of it here in coming weeks. Stay tuned….

posted 4 April 2018 in Outside. no comments yet